For those who've been wondering why Lata Mangeshkar has been lying low, here's some news: the legendry singer was busy working on her first ghazal album in 17 years, scheduled for a May release.
The last time she ventured into the territory was with Jagjit Singh in Sajda. Her new ghazal album will have numbers composed by Mayuresh Pai, a promising young Lata fan.
"Mayuresh earlier composed an album of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's poetry, which I sang. I was very impressed by his ability to put music into the toughest of Atalji's verses," Lata told IANS.
The album took almost two years to complete. Her frail health and her determination to make the intricacies of the ghazal sound flawless forced a slow pace of recording. But now the album is almost ready and to be released under the T-Series label.
Lata returns to T-Series after many years.
"But there never was any fight. In fact I sang for Adnan Sami in Lucky for T-Series. I also did a bhajan album for T-Series many years ago," said Lata.
As for the ghazal, it has always been a special challenge for the singer.
"Singing the ghazals of Madan Mohan in the films in the past was always very challenging and satisfying. My most challenging non-film album was the one on ghazals by Mirza Ghalib that my brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar composed for me.
"These days you don't hear too many ghazals. The trend has moved to fast numbers and mainly re-mix albums."
Lata loved going back to the form, especially with a composer who is just starting out.
"I love working with new talent. In recent times I've sung the first compositions of Vishal Bharadwaj, Rahul Sharma and now Mayuresh," she said.
Interestingly, Javed Akhtar was invited to write one ghazal for the album. He offered to do a bunch of lyrics.
"There's no singer in this universe who can intonate words the way Lataji can. From the time she sang my first film lyric in 'Silsila' to this new ghazal album, it's always an honour to have her sing to my words. Even if you don't know the meaning of a word, you know through her expression what she means. That's what a lyricist craves for," said Akhtar.